Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thinking Globally on Race

So I was listening to the new Wale album for the first time and I was vibing to it and although I was already a fan, I was extremely impressed with it. I was about half way through the album when I got to the track entitled "Shades". This track impressed me the most from the beat to the lyrics to the content it was all around my favorite track. It took a very personal and introspective look at his (Wale's) views on skin tone and how prejudices exist even within the black community from his perspective being of "direct" African decent and having immigrant parents.

This song flashed me back to when my whole perspective changed on race.

It was January 2009 and I was studying abroad in London, England. As a black man I felt more exposed and vulnerable than I have ever in my entire life. Here's why. In America having been taught black history and living and observing how people look at black people in America had me completely nervous on how people would perceive me here in London. I brought a bag full of prejudices with me on the plane which meant nothing there. Being the only black person on the trip didn't help at all. I had no person to bounce my frustrations off of... But I'm glad I was able to get through it on my own because I learned so much from the experience.

The course was about studying the immigrant communities in London from the mouths of the people themselves.... so they dropped the privileged students in the middle of the East End of London...where the colored people were. This I wasn't so comfortable with as a minority (as if we were scientists collecting information on coloreds) but I figured id take some time to learn something about myself in the process and this made things easier. After a couple of days I found a youth center that I ended up volunteering at everyday till my trip was over. It was here that I learned the biggest difference in how race is looked at in London. First off white people are allowed to talk about race without being attacked which was refreshing to me. Secondly was most of the "colored" people that are there know where they came from. Meaning they have a clear understanding of their nationality and claim THAT even before the country where they live. This hit me like a ton of bricks when I was caught speechless by a bunch of Arab Somali and Indian kids in a "theater" class at the center. One of the kids asked me "what" I was. I was like "Oh I'm American". The girl looked at me sideways like "duh.." she replied "Yeah I got that from your accent but where are your from? Are you Somali? You look Somalian..." I was confused. I didn't have an answer. I was almost embarrassed. I took this opportunity to give a little American history lesson on slavery and how it made it difficult for black people to trace back their lineage. They were floored. They actually didn't believe the story I told. It was amazing to me how much I was able to share about something that is common place in America. Very long story short, I came back to the states with a whole new attitude and perspective on life and more specifically, race. I have a new found respect for the perspective that immigrants in our country can bring to us if we have the patience and the good mind to listen. I got a small taste of how it is for them.

I encourage everybody to do some travelling across the pond. Not to mention the bars are fucking great and the women are BEAUTIFUL... 5ivebruhs members....we need to make a trip to London when we can...oh and we can bring along the fallen Dead Mike as well.

Shouts to my best friend when we were 8....Ricky...found out he was living in London the same time I was there and got a beer with him...good times.

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